Quazi Golam Dastgir

Quazi Golam Dastgir (September 23, 1932 – October 17, 2008) was a Bangladesh army officer and diplomat who belonged to a coterie of immigrant elites from the Indian state of West Bengal. Following a distinguished career in the Pakistan Army, he opted to join the defence services of Bangladesh after the country's independence in 1971. Quickly rising to the then top rank of Major General in the Bangladesh Army, ahead of all his military academy course mates, from 1975 to 1977, he served as the Zonal Martial Law Administrator (the equivalent of a State Governor in the military-backed government headed by President Abu Sadat Mohammed Sayem) for Dhaka Division. This included the nation's capital and was unequivocally the most important of the four provinces in Bangladesh. He commanded two of the five independent brigades that comprised the Bangladesh Army up to the mid-1970s, and served as chief of the border forces, holding the office of Director General of Bangladesh Rifles. He was one of the three Major Generals in the Bangladesh Army following the promulgation of martial law in 1975. In 1977, the service of Dastgir was transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and he went on to serve four terms as Ambassador of Bangladesh until his retirement in 1991.

Quazi Golam Dastgir
Ambassador Major General Quazi Golam Dastgir in 1991.jpg
Dastgir in Chittagong (1991)
Bangladesh Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
In office
2 February 1988 – 31 December 1991
PresidentHussain Muhammad Ershad
Shahabuddin Ahmed
Abdur Rahman Biswas
Preceded byMr. Hedayet Ahmad
Succeeded byMr. Abdul Momen Choudhury
Permanent Representative to the OIC and IDB
In office
1988–1991
PresidentHussain Muhammad Ershad
Shahabuddin Ahmed
Abdur Rahman Biswas
Bangladesh High Commissioner to Australia
In office
1984–1988
PresidentHussain Muhammad Ershad
Bangladesh Ambassador to Pakistan
In office
1982–1984
PresidentHussain Muhammad Ershad
Ahsanuddin Chowdhury
Bangladesh Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand
In office
27 May 1978 – 2 June 1982
PresidentZiaur Rahman
Abdus Sattar
Hussain Muhammad Ershad
Ahsanuddin Chowdhury
Preceded byA. K. M. Nazrul Islam
Succeeded byM. Mohsin
Permanent Representative to the United Nations ESCAP and ADB
In office
1979–1982
PresidentZiaur Rahman
Abdus Sattar
Hussain Muhammad Ershad
Personal details
Born(1932-09-23)23 September 1932
Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India
Died17 October 2008(2008-10-17) (aged 76)
Dhaka, Bangladesh
NationalityBangladeshi
Alma materPakistan Military Academy
University of Peshawar
ProfessionMilitary officer, Statesmen
Military service
Allegiance Bangladesh
 Pakistan (before 1971)
Branch/service Bangladesh Army seal Bangladesh Army
 Pakistan Army
RankMajor General
UnitInfantry corps (East Bengal Regiment)
Commands
  • Director General of BGB (then Bangladesh Rifles)
  • 65 Independent Infantry Brigade (later 24th Infantry Division)
  • Commandant the East Bengal Regimental Centre
  • 72 Independent Infantry Brigade (later 66th Infantry Division)
  • Chief of Logistics, Army HQ (later obsoleted post)
  • C.O. of 1st battalion of the East Bengal Regiment

Early life (1932–1950)Edit

Quazi Golam Dastgir was born on Friday, September 23, 1932, in Calcutta, British India to a well-known Muslim Bengali family from Burdwan, in the State of West Bengal. His father was a direct descendant of the last Mughal Chief Justice of Bengal and had a sizable estate in Orhgram (the site of a British aerodrome during World War II) in Burdwan and his mother belonged to the royal house of Salar in Murshidabad, West Bengal. He studied in Calcutta Model School and graduated from St. Xavier's College. On his matriculation certificate, his birthday was listed as June 1, 1933; this date was used as his date of birth on all official documents throughout his career. He subsequently graduated from Peshawar University. In 1950, he accompanied his family as immigrants to Dhaka, East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) and was selected for the 4th army pre-cadet training school in Quetta. He was then admitted to the 7th Batch Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) in Kakul and on February 14, 1953, was commissioned as a Permanent Regular Officer with the Pakistan Army service number PA-4484 in the infantry corps of the Pakistan Army in the First Battalion (called the “Senior Tigers”) of the East Bengal Regiment with the rank of Second Lieutenant after placing fifth in the graduating batch of 74 cadets.

Pakistan Army (1950–1971)Edit

As a lieutenant, he was a platoon commander and was decorated with a Commonwealth Medal in 1956. Later, as a captain, he held the post of General Staff Officer 3 (G-3), and was selected for infantry training in the United States. He graduated from the United States Army Infantry School at Fort Benning in Georgia, USA; and Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, USA, and became a trained rappeller.

In the early 1960s, he was selected to command the army contingent guarding Queen Elizabeth II during her State Visit to Dhaka. He served as a judge in the diving competitions at the Commonwealth Games qualifying tournaments in Pakistan. Promoted to the rank of Major, in 1965, he married Kohinoor Rasheed Choudhury, the daughter of industrialist-cum-legislator and Member of British India's Central Legislative Assembly Abdur Rasheed Choudhury[1][2][3] and Member of the Pakistan National Assembly Sirajunnessa Choudhury[1][3] of Sylhet, East Pakistan (currently Bangladesh). Also in 1965 he graduated from the Command and Staff College at Quetta, Pakistan. Decorated in the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War, he was granted a six-month antedate seniority making his official commissioning date September, 1952. He served as the Brigade Major of an independent brigade from 1965 to 1967 and as a Company Commander as well as the 2IC (2nd In Command) of his battalion in 1968.

In 1969 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel ahead of all his PMA coursemates and was appointed commanding officer (CO) of the First East Bengal Regiment (his own battalion). From 1970 to 1971 he served in the most coveted position of his rank as the general staff officer grade 1 (GSO-1 or G-1) of an independent army division (the 7th Division of the Pakistan Army) in Quetta, Pakistan which bordered Afghanistan's Kandahar Province.

Prisoner of war (1971–1973)Edit

He was posted in Quetta at the outbreak of the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War, and transferred to corps headquarter in Lahore initially and then to army headquarters in Rawalpindi. Following the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, Dastgir opted to join the Bangladesh Army. Shortly thereafter, he was put in concentration camps at Bunnoo and Mundi Bahauddin with fellow Bengali officers and families for two years.

Bangladesh Army (1973–1977)Edit

Dastgir was repatriated back to Dhaka, Bangladesh after his release from Pakistani confinement, and was promoted to the rank of full Colonel in 1973 after absorption in the Bangladesh Army with the Bangladesh Army service number BA-48. He was appointed Chief of Logistics — the combined positions of Quarter Master General (QMG) and Master General of Ordnance (MGO), each post headed by a Lieutenant General currently — at the new Army Headquarters in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. In rapid succession during 1974 he commanded two independent brigades — the 72 Infantry Brigade (later upgraded to the 66th Infantry Division) stationed at Rangpur and the 65 Infantry Brigade (later upgraded to the 24th Infantry Division) stationed at Chittagong – and was promoted to the rank of Brigadier in 1975. During this time he led Operation Dragon Drive,[4] the first successful joint army-navy-air force military operation in Bangladesh, earning him the Bangladesh Army's highest operational medal the Jatiyo Nirapatya Padak. While commanding the Chittagong Area, he also served as the ex officio Commandant of the East Bengal Regimental Centre (EBRC) – a position nicknamed “Papa Tiger”.[5]

In August, 1975 Dastgir was promoted to the rank of Major General, the highest rank possible in the Bangladesh Army at that time, and continued to command 65 Infantry Brigade (making him Bangladesh Army's first formation commander to hold the rank of Major General) until November, 1975 when he was appointed chief of the border forces as Director General of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR). In November, 1975, Dastgir was given the additional responsibility to serve as the first Zonal Martial Law Administrator (ZMLA) (i.e., the de facto military governor) for Dhaka Division, one of the four administrative provinces of the country. In 1977 he founded the Rifles Public School at BDR Headquarters and this is now one of the leading academic institutions in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka. ZMLA Dastgir headed a review of the tea industry and the Dastgir Tea Commission (as his review came to be known) forgave outstanding bank loans taken by Bangladesh tea gardens before independence in 1971 – thereby reviving the tea industry in the country.

During this time he led the Bangladesh delegation for border talks with India held in Calcutta in 1975 and New Delhi in 1976.[6] The border talks had followed Dastgir's successful counter-offensive against Indian incursions in Bangladesh's Mymensingh border with India – and this military operation got him his second Jatiyo Nirapatya Padak.

Bangladesh Foreign Service (1977–1991)Edit

Despite ample opportunities, Dastgir refused to do politics in uniform and requested to be relieved of his role as ZMLA of Dhaka Division to enable him to focus on his military duties just as the Chief of Army Staff Major General Ziaur Rahman took over as President of Bangladesh. Despite widespread expectations that Dastgir would be appointed Chief of Army Staff to replace the new president, in December 1977, he was transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a full, permanent Secretary to the Government of Bangladesh. Dastgir was appointed the Ambassador of Bangladesh to Thailand (and later concurrently accredited to the Philippines) in May, 1978 and served till June, 1982.[7] During this time he also served as his country's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). As the country's Permanent Representative to ESCAP, Dastgir played a key role in the election of Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shah A M S Kibria as the Executive Secretary of the United Nations commission. It was at a reception at his house in Bangkok, Thailand that he broached the idea of an association of South Asian nations in the ASEAN model to the Bhutanese Foreign Minister, and this started discussions which led to the proclamation of SAARC (the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) by Bangladesh President Ziaur Rahman, after extensive diplomatic groundwork done by the Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Ambassador Humayun Rasheed Choudhury[3][8] who was the elder brother of Mrs. Dastgir and went on to become the President of the 41st UN General Assembly. General Dastgir's term as Ambassador to Thailand coincided with renowned U.S. Ambassador Morton Abramowitz, and during this time General Dastgir often took advice on foreign service approaches from another soldier turned diplomat, Philippine Foreign Minister Carlos Romulo.

From 1982 to 1984 he served as Ambassador of Bangladesh to Pakistan. On March 26, 1983, Ambassador Dastgir gave a televised speech aired on Pakistan Television (PTV), addressing multifarious bilateral issues between Bangladesh and Pakistan. This helped normalize relations with Pakistan and eventually led to the re-admittance of Pakistan in the British Commonwealth at the recommendation of Bangladesh.

From 1984 to 1988 the general served as the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Australia[9][10][11] with concurrent accreditation to New Zealand, Papua New Guinea[12] and Fiji. In 1984 he attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting in Papua New Guinea, and served as the leader of the Bangladesh delegation to the Tenth Asian and Pacific Labour Ministers Conference held in Melbourne in October, 1985. Later that year (1985), he led the Bangladesh delegation to the 44th International Cotton Advisory Committee meeting held in Sydney from 28 October to 1 November.

In 1988 he was appointed Ambassador of Bangladesh to Saudi Arabia[13][14] with concurrent accreditation to Jordan, Niger and Yemen. During this time, General Dastgir also served as the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), and the Saudi Fund for Development. As the country's Permanent Representative to the OIC, Dastgir played a key role in the election of Bangladeshi candidate Ambassador Mohammad Mohsin as the Deputy Secretary General of the organization.[15] During his tenure to Saudi Arabia, Dastgir was instrumental in the decision of the Government of Bangladesh to send a contingent of troops, consisting of the First East Bengal Regiment (his own battalion) as part of Operation Desert Storm. This was Bangladesh's first participation in an international military coalition, and paved the way for the Bangladesh Armed Forces to take part in future United Nations peacekeeping operations across various world theaters. At this time Dastgir gave an interview to the Voice of America and spoke about regional security, including the steps taken by the Saudi Government to ensure the safety of Bangladesh nationals affected by the first Gulf War.[16] For his distinguished services as the Ambassador of Bangladesh to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Dastgir was decorated in 1991 with the King Abdul Aziz Order Class 1 by (then) King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.

In September, 1991, Dastgir retired from the Government of Bangladesh after completing a career spanning 41 years.

Personal lifeEdit

In 1965 Dastgir married Kohinoor Rasheed Choudhury, the daughter of industrialist-cum-legislator and Member of British India's Central Legislative Assembly Abdur Rasheed Choudhury[1][2][3] and Member of the Pakistan National Assembly Serajunnessa Choudhury[1][2] of Sylhet, East Pakistan (currently Bangladesh).

Retirement (1991–2008)Edit

Dastgir remained active in military and diplomatic circles after retirement, and spoke at many public forums. In 1995 he gave an exclusive interview to Bangladesh Television (BTV) on the commemoration of the founding of Bangladesh Rifles. A top bridge player during his military and diplomat days, he regularly participated in local tournaments.

In 1996 he was widely rumored to be under consideration to take part in the first neutral Caretaker Government which officiated during national elections. Instead, he was nominated by the Jatiyo Party to contest the parliamentary elections from a Dhaka constituency. During this time he was exclusively interviewed by CNN's South Asia Anchor Anita Pratap for a worldwide broadcast in 1996. Despite the election victory of an opponent, Dastgir gained wide popularity in the constituency for his bold yet statesmanlike campaign. He was appointed a Presidium Member of the Jatiyo Party and served as the chief foreign policy advisor to former President H. M. Ershad. In 2002 General Dastgir resigned his membership in the Jatiyo Party due to policy differences with the party leadership.

In 1997, he was elected Chairman of the Retired Armed Forces Officers Welfare Association (RAOWA) – Bangladesh's only veteran's association for army, navy and air force officers—and served a two-year term. Elected to the Bangladesh chapter of the Royal Commonwealth Society in 1998, Dastgir served as its Presidium Member and Vice President until 2005.[17][18]

He had been handpicked by General M. A. G. Osmany to serve as a member of the Osmany Trust created to look after the estate of the former Commander-in-Chief of the Bangladesh Liberation forces. Dastgir remained an active member of the trust until 2008.

His health began to fail abruptly in 2005 when he was invited by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to attend the 100th Reunion of the Command and Staff College in Quetta. Nonetheless, he attended the large gathering for flag officers from across the globe, and sat next to Musharraf during the official group photograph session. Dastgir made a trip to Saudi Arabia in 2006 to perform Umrah and traveled to the U.S. in 2007 to visit his son. In September, 2008, Dastgir fell seriously ill with undiagnosed ailments and had to be hospitalized for about a month. He returned home on October 10, 2008. He died in his sleep at his Dhaka residence on the morning of Friday, October 17, 2008.[19] After funeral services attended by top defence and civilian officials, he was buried in the national army cemetery in Dhaka (the Cantonment Graveyard) with full military honors. He was survived by his wife, Kohinoor Dastgir (an internationally recognized social worker and recipient of the International Red Cross Gold Medal), a son and a daughter.

The “Maj. Gen. Quazi Golam Dastgir, KAAO, psc Memorial Duplicate Bridge Championship” was established in 2019 under the auspices of the Bangladesh Bridge Federation in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The first tournament was held at RAOWA during 25–27 December 2019.

LegacyEdit

Dastgir was one of the best known Bengali army officers of his time – and was apparently considered by the CIA to be the most likely person to lead the Bangladesh Army in case of war. Following his active military service, he had a distinguished career as a diplomat during his four terms as Ambassador. Described as an "upright officer of the old school",[16] he held conservative views with a strong belief in civilian governance which might have been a product of his U.S. training, and these convictions may have been a deterrent to his rise to the pinnacle of political power.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Impact international August 2007 Obituaries" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b Al-Mahmood, Syed Zain (25 June 2010). "A Legacy of Love". Star Weekend Magazine. The Daily Star.
  3. ^ Siddiquee, Iqbal (29 September 2007). "Aminur Rashid Chowdhury: Culture and Politics". Star Insight. The Daily Star.

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